Updated December 2019
On this page, we give reasons why superfast broadband is becoming increasingly essential for consumers and businesses. Superfast broadband, offering download speeds of at least 30 Mbps, is now available to 95% of UK premises. You can check to see if you can access superfast broadband using the postcode checker on our Broadband Deals page.
1. Superfast broadband is needed to support an increasing number of devices in the home
Basic standard broadband (ADSL) struggles to support the increasing number of Internet-capable devices in the typical home, which can include:
- mobile phones
- tablets and iPads
- laptops and desktop PCs
- e-readers (e.g. Kindle)
- games consoles
- smart watches
- set-top boxes (e.g. Apple TV, Sky Q and the Virgin TV Box)
- smart TVs (e.g. accessing Netflix or BBC iPlayer).
You may be surprised when you count up the number of devices you have that connect to the Internet. Ofcom has identified strong growth in the adoption of Internet-enabled devices, with each household in the UK now having several different types of Internet-enabled device. As outlined in our Broadband Statistics page, 63% of households have a laptop and 54% have a tablet device. Most new television sets sold in the UK are ‘smart TVs’ and more than half (53%) of households have, in some way, an Internet connection to their TV. Eight in ten adults (79%) now have an Internet-enabled smartphone.
Subscription to traditional pay-TV services (such as Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk), with their Internet-enabled set-top boxes – totalled 14.3 million in the first quarter of 2019.
All these devices will be competing for the same limited bandwidth (when they access the Internet or perform a software update), and basic broadband services with slow speeds will increasingly become a major bottleneck.
The situation is even worse when there are several people living in the household when standard broadband is woefully insufficient. All too often parents may be struggling to access the Internet while their children are trying to watch YouTube in their rooms.
2. Without superfast broadband, consumers miss out on bandwidth-intensive services such as TV and video
In many ways, TV and video services have become the ‘killer application’ of superfast broadband. Without superfast broadband, the choice of TV and video is becoming increasingly restricted. Without superfast broadband, picture quality can be degraded with playback often interrupted by buffering.
Subscriptions to traditional pay-TV services (such as Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk) totalled 14.3 million in Q1 2019. Traditional pay-TV services (such as Sky) increasingly use a broadband connection to download or stream ‘on demand’ content that supplements ‘live’ content delivered using conventional broadcast channels. For example, when Sky Q viewers tune in to a conventional movie channel mid-way through the movie, the viewer is given a choice to watch the movie from the beginning (which is then downloaded via the broadband connection). The slower the broadband connection, the longer the viewer has to wait to view the content.
The total number of subscriptions to subscription video-on-demand services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, NOW TV, Apple TV and Disney Life, reached 19.1 million in the first quarter of 2019 (up from 15.4 million in Q1 2018). Around half of UK households now subscribe to at least one subscription video-on-demand service (such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video).
There is a noticeable quality trade-off for streamed services as the bandwidth available is reduced in terms of picture and sound quality. Netflix recommends an Internet connection with at least 25 Mbps download speed to stream titles in their best (Ultra HD 4k) resolution. The BBC recommends download speeds of more than 5 Mbps just to watch HD content via iPlayer. The speed requirement for iPlayer jumps for its best Ultra HD quality level though. The BBC has recommended a minimum speed of 40 Mbps to view its Ultra HD content (such as Wimbledon). Without superfast broadband, broadband users will be unable to view the best 4k Ultra HD streamed services.
3. Superfast broadband delivers a responsive experience for many applications
Superfast broadband generally guarantees an extremely responsive and reliable experience for a host of online services, including:
- streamed music services (e.g. Spotify, Apple Music and TIDAL)
- online back-up services
- home security
- social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter)
- messaging (e.g. WhatsApp and iMessage)
- home shopping
- online banking.
4. Superfast broadband provides substantially improved performance for delay-sensitive services, such as voice telephone and online gaming
While many focus on the improved download and uploads speeds provided by superfast broadband, less well known is the fact that superfast broadband tends to improve other performance aspects such as latency. Latency is very important for online gaming, for example, as well as video and voice telephony (e.g. Skype). The perceived unreliability of accessing services using standard broadband may well become a thing of the past with superfast broadband.
5. Superfast broadband may be cheaper than standard broadband!
Ofcom has found that the difference between the monthly rental fees for ISPs’ lowest-cost ‘superfast’ services and their lowest-cost ‘current generation’ services is often relatively small, with the price differential ranging from £5 to £10 a month for most ISPs that offer both types of service.
In practice, any small premium for superfast broadband may be completely outweighed by any deals obtained by switching to a new broadband provider or re-contracting with an existing supplier.
We strongly recommend that you check the status of your broadband service as you may find that you are no longer in contract. Ofcom has found there are around 8.8 million out-of-contract broadband customers in the UK. Of these, 3.3 million have been out-of-contract for more than two years. Ofcom has found that those who engage, either by signing a new contract with their provider (re-contracting) or switching to a new provider, get better deals than those who remain out-of-contract. It has found that customers who sign a contract with their existing provider typically pay £8 to £9 less than if they were out-of-contract. So, you may find that you will be able to upgrade to superfast broadband without paying extra for it.
To see if you can access superfast broadband in your area, and to view the best deals, visit our Broadband Deals page.
6. Superfast broadband could increase your house price
A survey carried out by ispreview.co.uk found that 68.8% of respondents would be put off from buying a “beautiful new house” if it lacked fast broadband. 73.9% considered that broadband was “critically important” to their home life.
7. Conventional broadband services can be unreliable
As described in our What is fibre broadband page, ADSL broadband is carried along copper cables all the way from the BT exchange to homes and business premises. Inevitably, the broadband signal suffers attenuation as it travels along the copper cable from the exchange to broadband modems, reducing the speeds that can be delivered and making the broadband signal susceptible to interference.
In contrast, high-speed fibre broadband utilises fibre-optic cables, which are immune to interference and do not suffer the signal attenuation experienced by copper lines. As a result, superfast broadband services deliver significantly higher speeds and are more reliable.
8. Superfast broadband connectivity is essential for many businesses
Superfast broadband is increasingly becoming essential to businesses, whatever the size of the business.
In businesses with a significant number of employees, superfast broadband ensures that employees no longer have to compete for access to slow and limited conventional broadband services, increasing efficiency. Widespread deployment of superfast broadband services also allows businesses to provide flexible working for employees so that they can work from home and access company systems remotely, saving costs and reducing carbon footprints.
Superfast broadband provides efficiency improvements and cost savings, through improved online sales and marketing, improved online ordering and invoicing, enhanced video conferencing and VoIP services, and improved access to cloud-based services.
9. Superfast broadband improves work-life balance and enables home working
Homeworking potentially allows many people to achieve a better work-life balance, particularly parents with young children. However, conventional broadband services may not permit reliable access to business systems or allow employees to communicate effectively with colleagues or customers through video conferencing, for example.
Superfast broadband is changing businesses
Team building company Creative Team Events is embracing the creative possibilities from superfast broadband to reach out to a new global audience. It is developing an extensive portfolio of high-definition content to showcase its events and introduce its event facilitators. The company estimates that superfast broadband has helped boost sales by about 30% and has brought it new customers from across the globe, with recent team building events held in Beijing and the USA. Here is a video:
Don’t forget to read our Increase Broadband Speed Guide to get the fastest speed possible from your line. Our WiFi Optimisation Guide shows how you can avoid your WiFi connection becoming the bottleneck of your system.
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